Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Rollercoaster days

Things are changing fast here at Alexander Towers (my house is NOT called Alexander Towers but it so should be!). Cancerman will be cancer-free or close to it within the week (is it tasteless to call him Cancerman? I do think of him as a superhero), two people have recognised me *cringe* from a newspaper article in the Daily Mail, and both were really lovely about it, I got notes about book 2 from my editor, which were very helpful and positive, and I've been trying to organise the whole of Solstice/Christmas before the surgery. We've also fitted in a wedding, trips to the hospital and mastering eating out when one of us is gluten-free and one is vegan. We are also going for a cure for his cancer, and have a great team behind us.

Meanwhile I have barely written anything in two months, usually the time it takes to write half a book. It's depressing, and I've realised how much therapy writing is for me. Losing myself in someone else's much more immediate worries (if fictional) and if necessary playing god at the same time, is therapeutic. I always knew that but now I'm finding it works better than I thought. So I'm going to roll my sleeves up and write again, get back into my routine, because I feel like I'm blown about by hospital and kids and Christmas and not by the demands of the books. Not to mention cooking vegan every day - that's an hour extra most days, because the kids aren't vegan and there's a lot to do!

* It's OK to call him Cancerman providing I stop once he has the surgery. He's still going to be a superhero but with better health. I'll try really hard not to point out how much he glows in the dark during radiotherapy. Really hard.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Drowning or waving?

That's me, with the hands trying to reach the air. I may be waving.
By Sarah Thomo
I'm waiting for cancer to be scooped out of the man I love so he has a chance of living. A good chance, sure, but surgery is so savage. It's so aggressive. But so is the cancer, so we have to man up and cope with the whole thing and not let it affect our lives too much. Only it does. It's hard to think about anything without it creeping in.

I'm writing the end of book 3, in which a couple of characters die, and it's heart-breaking. I want to save them, I want to wave my god-like writer's hand and rescue them because I can't do it in real life. In real life some young woman surgeon gets to wave her less than god-like hand and attempt to get all the cancer cells that have inexplicably set up home inside an otherwise healthy man. No, we have to rely on human skill and radiotherapy and drugs.

So my writing and my life are melancholy at the moment, and I'm trying not to plan too much, or commit to anything beyond the needs of my large family and the books. I'm waiting to rewrite book 2 and knock it into shape for my editor, then finish book 3, late but better (hopefully) than the others.

Meanwhile we grieve for the old days, when we planned a long future and enjoyed our ignorance. I think I may be drowning after all.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Blogging and Cancer

It's been incredibly difficult to blog through the last few weeks. I thought it would be easier, with the book coming out on the 10th October, but that fact has been overshadowed by other events on my life. Twenty-two years ago, I was widowed. My young husband was being treated for a chest infection in hospital when he collapsed and died from what turned out to be leukaemia. I was crushed, and also felt totally let down by the medical system that had repeatedly failed to notice - despite us asking - that he had leukaemia. Now, in the last few weeks, my second husband has been diagnosed with another form of cancer. I don't want to dwell on it here, but you can't totally put yourself aside when you write (well, I can't, anyway). At least he has been diagnosed, and has been offered treatment, and unlike Steve, has a good chance of surviving, at least for many years. That's all I can say about it, except that it has driven a tractor through my writing schedule, and with surgery coming up in just weeks or days, will continue to do so. I shall just have to write when I can.

Book wise, the good news is that The Secrets of Life and Death has sold in Finland as well as Germany and the US. I have no idea how it's selling here yet - hardbacks don't sell well here and it's really Kindle sales and Amazon that we'll eventually look at. The paperback will get a bit more of a plug next year. Selling abroad is just a bit of a bonus for the author. They may be quite modest sums involved - the cost of translation is huge - but the writer doesn't have to do anything for it. I'm really looking forward to the covers - they will suggest another take on the book, another graphic interpretation. Interesting stuff.

I'm tackling the contemporary strand of book 3 and after sorting out a weird moment when I've introduced two different divergent explanations of the same thing, have found the story flowing again. I'm looking forward to adding all the Kelley stuff, of which I've written about half, but will need to completely rewrite in the first person having started out in third. The thing is, the other two books work in first person so I think I need to bring them into line. Tricky stuff when the tale is being narrated as much by his daughter as anyone. I'll work it out.

I have had great fun blogging for Mslexia - another distraction from blogging here. I also had the surreal experience of being photographed for the Daily Mail. This led to some strange conversations with a make-up lady called Antonia.
'Have you got anything a bit more formal - less pattern, not black?'
Everything I have is black or patterned. Or black and patterned.
'Well, think about what you would wear to a dinner party?'
I usually wear an apron, since I'm always the cook, or we're going to someone's barbeque in which case I wear T-shirt and jeans. Like I'm wearing now.
'Well, do you have shoes?'
Boots or trainers?
'No, proper shoes. Oh, you really do mean boots or trainers. How about a nice necklace? Let's have a look at your jewellery don't have one?'

I wouldn't let her put curlers in my hair, but she did plaster me in make-up - to my mind, anyway. I do appreciate that the flash will bleach out anyone, but I don't normally wear make-up since I don't really give a f*@k what I look like. I couldn't wait to get it off. But she, and the photographer were so nice and friendly and kind we did do our best to co-operate, and hopefully the result will be worth it. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Beyond publication - what happens next?

I started my blog Witchway - A Writer's Journey to Publication - in July 2009, full of optimism that I could improving my writing. At least to the point where a creative writing tutor wouldn't run and hide when I submitted the next dreadful instalment of my learning curve. Seriously. I once removed all the adverbs and adjectives out of a short story which then became flash fiction. I wrote:
I must believe that anything I do to the empty page must be worse than just enjoying it's white lovely blankness.
So I said (with three adjectives) in 2009. Since then I've written about how much courses have improved my writing, and how much reading improves my storytelling, and I've banged on about how competitions can get you a) noticed and b) an agent. But now I'm in the And Beyond area - what happens after your book comes out?

Foreign deals were one thing I hadn't expected. First it sold in dollars to the US, nice to know but since I'd sold the World English rights, it only affects my advance here (it pays some off). I might have to look at some edits to make it into an American book at some point. But then it sold in Germany - wow! I get a bonus, and the best thing is someone else gets to do all the work of translating the novel (they get handsomely paid, don't imagine some language sweatshop turning out manuscripts in various languages). So I went off to the World Fantasy Con (my first) and immersed myself in the world of fantasy writers, editors, readers and agents (this is my impromptu interview with I got home to find there had been an offer from Finland as well, so exciting!

The book was also mentioned by the Independent as well, which was very encouraging, as I'm working on book 3 at the moment. It was great to be at the Del Rey UK party, watching people look at our books, pick them up, discuss them - and then be asked to sign a stack of them. People bought a book, I'm still amazed by that. I want to run after them and say 'I do hope you enjoy it...' 

Life also goes on and I'm adapting to some changes in our family up here on our clifftop, haunted and rambly house (more adjectives). It looks like we may be better moving into town, so I'm going to have to fit edits to book 2 and finishing book 3 around packing and showing people around. *Sigh*. I shall miss it, even the ghosts with their malevolent influences, and no doubt it will end up in more books too.